Playing the underdog role in a David-vs.-Goliath match-up in the national semifinals, the University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team had the top-ranked Windsor Lancers staggering for a while in the first half.
But the Lancers are three-time defending CIS champions for a reason, and eventually, their withering defensive pressure wore down the Cascades.
UFV led by five points late in the second quarter, but tournament host Windsor owned the second half, pulling away for a 65-45 victory that was far closer throughout than the final score indicated.
“They’re a team with a lot of weapons, and I thought we hung tough with them for he first half and into the third quarter,” Cascades head coach Al Tucshcherer said. “Then they started chipping away, and you started to see some cracks forming.
“But we played hard … We made them earn it.”
UFV, playing in the CIS Final Four for the first time in program history after a quarter-final win over McGill on Friday, encountered some early adversity when point guard Aieisha Luyken picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter.
The Cascades led 6-5 when she went to the bench, and Windsor took advantage of her absence, reeling off a 7-0 run in less than a minute as UFV struggled to cross halfcourt against their full-court press.
That forced Tuchscherer to send Luyken back in, but she picked up a third foul in short order and was back on the bench for the balance of the first half.
The Cascades, though, managed to rally behind some tough defence of their own. Falling back into a 2-3 zone, they exposed Windsor’s shaky perimeter shooting – the Lancers, stymied in the paint, hoisted brick after brick from beyond the three-point arc.
That sparked a 15-2 UFV run, and they were up 25-20 late in the second quarter.
But Windsor closed to within 25-24 at halftime, then took over in the third quarter, out-scoring the Cascades 15-4 in the frame to go up 39-29.
They expanded the lead further in the fourth as the game became more of a back-and-forth affair.
UFV’s Achilles heel was taking care of the ball – they coughed up 31 turnovers, many of them coming against the Lancers’ predatory press. Windsor had just 17 turnovers.
“We had a lot of trouble with their pressure, and we really shouldn’t have,” Tuchscherer said.
The Cascades limited the highest-scoring team in the nation to 27.3 per cent shooting from the field. But they shot just 29.4 per cent themselves, while losing the rebounding battle 51-43.
Nicole Wierks paced the Cascades with 17 points, but she was the only UFV player to score in double figures. Her sister Sarah, while limited to three points, hauled in 11 rebounds and spearheaded a terrific defensive effort on Lancers star Jessica Clemencon. The former national player of the year scored 18 points, but shot just 5-for-17 from the field.
Windsor point guard Miah-Marie Langlois scored a game-high 20 points.
The Lancers face No. 2-ranked St. Mary’s in the CIS title game on Sunday, while the Cascades meet the Saskatchewan Huskies for bronze in a rematch of the Canada West final, which the Huskies won 67-56. That game tips off at 2 p.m. Pacific time, and will be webcast live on CIS-SIC.tv.
“We’ve got to get our minds clear of this game and get prepared for tomorrow,” Tuchscherer said. “It would be fantastic to come home with a medal.”